Over 55,000 people in the US are diagnosed with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) yearly, and fewer than 20% of these patients survive a year beyond diagnosis. Chemotherapies are considered or used in nearly every PDAC case, but there is limited understanding of the complex signaling responses underlying resistance to these common treatments. Here, we take an unbiased approach to study protein kinase network changes following chemotherapies in patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models of PDAC to facilitate design of rational drug combinations. Proteomics profiling following chemotherapy regimens reveals that activation of JNK-JUN signaling occurs after 5-fluorouracil plus leucovorin (5-FU) and FOLFOX (5-FU plus oxaliplatin (OX)), but not after OX alone or gemcitabine. Cell and tumor growth assays with the irreversible inhibitor JNK-IN-8 and genetic manipulations demonstrate that JNK and JUN each contribute to chemoresistance and cancer cell survival after FOLFOX. Active JNK1 and JUN are specifically implicated in these effects, and synergy with JNK-IN-8 is linked to FOLFOX-mediated JUN activation, cell cycle dysregulation, and DNA damage response. This study highlights the potential for JNK-IN-8 as a biological tool and potential combination therapy with FOLFOX in PDAC and reinforces the need to tailor treatment to functional characteristics of individual tumors.
Matthew B. Lipner, Xianlu L. Peng, Chong Jin, Yi Xu, Yanzhe Gao, Michael P. East, Naim U. Rashid, Richard A. Moffitt, Silvia G. Herrera Loeza, Ashley B. Morrison, Brian T. Golitz, Cyrus Vaziri, Lee M. Graves, Gary L. Johnson, Jen Jen Yeh
Heart failure (HF) remains a grievous illness with poor prognosis even with optimal care. The apelin receptor (APJ) counteracts the pressor effect of angiotensin II, attenuates ischemic injury and has the potential to be a novel target to treat HF. Intravenous administration of apelin improves cardiac function acutely in HF patients. However, its short half-life restricts its use to infusion therapy. To identify a longer acting APJ agonist, we conducted a medicinal chemistry campaign leading to the discovery of potent small-molecule APJ agonists with comparable activity to apelin by mimicking the C-terminal portion of apelin-13. Acute infusion increased systolic function and reduced systemic vascular resistance in two rat models of impaired cardiac function. Similar results were obtained in an anesthetized but not a conscious canine HF model. Chronic oral dosing in a rat myocardial infarction model reduced myocardial collagen content and improved diastolic function to a similar extent as losartan, a RAS antagonist standard of care therapy, but lacked additivity with co-administration. Collectively, this work demonstrates the feasibility of developing clinical viable potent small molecule agonists that mimic the endogenous APJ ligand with more favorable drug-like properties and highlight potential limitations for APJ agonism for this indication.
Brandon Ason, Yinhong Chen, Qi Guo, Kimberly M Hoagland, Ray W. Chui, Mark Fielden, Weston Sutherland, Rhonda Chen, Ying Zhang, Shirley Mihardja, Xiaochuan Ma, Xun Li, Yaping Sun, Dongming Liu, Khanh Nguyen, Jinghong Wang, Ning Li, Sridharan Rajamani, Yusheng Qu, BaoXi Gao, Andrea Boden, Vishnu Chintalgattu, Jim R. Turk, Joyce C. Y. Chan, Liaoyuan A. Hu, Paul Dransfield, Jonathan B. Houze, Jing Man Wong, Ji Ma, Vatee Pattaropong, Murielle M. Veniant, Hugo M Vargas, Gayathri Swaminath, Aarif Khakoo
Development of chemotherapy resistance is a major problem in ovarian cancer. One understudied mechanism of chemoresistance is the induction of quiescence, a reversible non-proliferative state. Unfortunately, little is known about regulators of quiescence. Here we identify the master transcription factor NFATC4 as a regulator of quiescence in ovarian cancer. NFATC4 is enriched in ovarian cancer stem-like cells (CSC) and correlates with decreased proliferation and poor prognosis. Treatment of cancer cells with cisplatin results in NFATC4 nuclear translocation and activation of NFATC4 pathway, while inhibition of the pathway increased chemotherapy response. Induction of NFATC4 activity results in a marked decrease in proliferation, G0 cell cycle arrest and chemotherapy resistance, both in vitro and in vivo. Finally, NFATC4 drives a quiescent phenotype in part via downregulation of MYC. Together these data identify that NFATC4 as a driver of quiescence and a potential new target to combat chemoresistance in ovarian cancer.
Alexander J. Cole, Mangala Iyengar, Santiago Panesso-Gómez, Patrick J. O’Hayer, Daniel K. Chan, Greg M. Delgoffe, Katherine M. Aird, Euisik Yoon, Shoumei Bai, Ronald J. Buckanovich
Few therapeutic methods exist for preventing preterm birth (PTB), or delivery before completing 37 weeks of gestation. In the US, progesterone (P4) supplementation is the only FDA-approved drug for use in preventing recurrent spontaneous PTB. However, P4 has limited effectiveness, working in only approximately one-third of cases. Computational drug repositioning leverages data on existing drugs to discover novel therapeutic uses. We used a rank-based pattern-matching strategy to compare the differential gene expression signature for PTB to differential gene expression drug profiles in the Connectivity Map database and assigned a reversal score to each PTB-drug pair. Eighty-three drugs, including P4, had significantly reversed differential gene expression compared with that found for PTB. Many of these compounds have been evaluated in the context of pregnancy, with 13 belonging to pregnancy category A or B — indicating no known risk in human pregnancy. We focused our validation efforts on lansoprazole, a proton-pump inhibitor, which has a strong reversal score and a good safety profile. We tested lansoprazole in an animal inflammation model using LPS, which showed a significant increase in fetal viability compared with LPS treatment alone. These promising results demonstrate the effectiveness of the computational drug repositioning pipeline to identify compounds that could be effective in preventing PTB.
Brian L. Le, Sota Iwatani, Ronald J. Wong, David K. Stevenson, Marina Sirota
In recent years, CAR-T cell therapy has proven to be a promising approach against cancer. Nonetheless, this approach still faces multiple challenges in eliminating solid tumors, one of which being the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment (TME). Here we demonstrated that knocking out the endogenous TGFβ receptor II (TGFBR2) in CAR-T cells with CRISPR/Cas9 technology could reduce the induced regulatory T-cell (iTreg) conversion and prevent the exhaustion of CAR-T cells. Meanwhile, TGFBR2 edited CAR-T cells had better in vivo tumor elimination efficacy, both in cell line derived xenograft (CDX) and patient derived xenograft (PDX) solid tumor models, whether administered locally or systemically. In addition, the TGFBR2 edited CAR-T cells could eliminate contralaterally re-inoculated xenografts in mice effectively with an increased proportion of central memory and effector memory subsets. In conclusion, we greatly improved the in vitro and in vivo function of CAR-T cells in TGFβ-rich tumor environments by knocking out endogenous TGFBR2, proposing a new method to improve the efficacy of CAR-T cell therapy for treating solid tumors.
Na Tang, Chen Cheng, Xingying Zhang, Miaomiao Qiao, Na Li, Wei Mu, Xiao-Fei Wei, Weidong Han, Haoyi Wang
Botulinum neurotoxins (BoNTs) are potent neuroparalytic toxins that cause mortality through respiratory paralysis. The approved medical countermeasure for BoNT poisoning is infusion of antitoxin immunoglobulins. However, antitoxins have poor therapeutic efficacy in symptomatic patients; thus, there is an urgent need for treatments that reduce the need for artificial ventilation. We report that the US Food and Drug Administration–approved potassium channel blocker 3,4-diaminopyridine (3,4-DAP) reverses respiratory depression and neuromuscular weakness in murine models of acute and chronic botulism. In ex vivo studies, 3,4-DAP restored end-plate potentials and twitch contractions of diaphragms isolated from mice at terminal stages of BoNT serotype A (BoNT/A) botulism. In vivo, human-equivalent doses of 3,4-DAP reversed signs of severe respiratory depression and restored mobility in BoNT/A-intoxicated mice at terminal stages of respiratory collapse. Multiple-dosing administration of 3,4-DAP improved respiration and extended survival at up to 5 LD50 BoNT/A. Finally, 3,4-DAP reduced gastrocnemius muscle paralysis and reversed respiratory depression in sublethal models of serotype A–, B–, and E–induced botulism. These findings make a compelling argument for repurposing 3,4-DAP to symptomatically treat symptoms of muscle paralysis caused by botulism, independent of serotype. Furthermore, they suggest that 3,4-DAP is effective for a range of botulism symptoms at clinically relevant time points.
Edwin Vazquez-Cintron, James Machamer, Celinia Ondeck, Kathleen Pagarigan, Brittany Winner, Paige Bodner, Kyle Kelly, M. Ross Pennington, Patrick McNutt
Hepatic inflammasome activation is considered a major contributor to liver fibrosis in NASH. Apoptosis signal–regulating kinase 1 (ASK1) is an apical mitogen-activated protein kinase that activates hepatic JNK and p38 to promote apoptosis, inflammation, and fibrosis. The aim of the current study was to investigate whether pharmacologic inhibition of ASK1 could attenuate hepatic fibrosis driven by inflammasome activation using gain-of-function NOD-like receptor protein 3 (Nlrp3) mutant mice. Tamoxifen-inducible Nlrp3 knock-in (Nlrp3A350V/+CreT-KI) mice and WT mice were administered either control chow diet or diet containing the selective ASK1 inhibitor GS-444217 for 6 weeks. Livers of Nlrp3-KI mice had increased inflammation, cell death, and fibrosis and increased phosphorylation of ASK1, p38, and c-Jun. GS-444217 reduced ASK1 pathway activation, liver cell death, and liver fibrosis. ASK1 inhibition resulted in a significant downregulation of genes involved in collagen production and extracellular matrix deposition, as well as in a reduced hepatic TNF-α expression. ASK1 inhibition also directly reduced LPS-induced gene expression of Collagen 1A1 (Col1a1) in hepatic stellate cells isolated from Nlrp3-KI mice. In conclusion, ASK1 inhibition reduced liver cell death and fibrosis downstream of inflammatory signaling induced by NLRP3. These data provide mechanistic insight into the antifibrotic mechanisms of ASK1 inhibition.
Susanne Schuster-Gaul, Lukas Jonathan Geisler, Matthew D. McGeough, Casey D. Johnson, Anna Zagorska, Li Li, Alexander Wree, Vivian Barry, Igor Mikaelian, Lily J. Jih, Bettina G. Papouchado, Grant Budas, Hal M. Hoffman, Ariel E. Feldstein
Lithium (Li) is the mainstay pharmacotherapeutic mood stabilizer in bipolar disorder. Its efficacious use is complicated by acute and chronic renal side effects, including nephrogenic diabetes insipidus (NDI) and progression to chronic kidney disease (CKD). The nuclear factor erythroid-derived 2–related factor 2 (Nrf2) pathway senses and coordinates cellular responses to oxidative and electrophilic stress. Here, we identify that graded genetic activation of Nrf2 protects against Li-induced NDI (Li-NDI) and volume wasting via an aquaporin 2–independent mechanism. Renal Nrf2 activity is differentially expressed on functional segments of the nephron, and its activation along the distal tubule and collecting duct directly modulates ion transporter expression, mimicking paradoxical effects of diuretics in mitigating Li-NDI. In addition, Nrf2 reduces cyclooxygenase expression and vasoactive prostaglandin biosynthesis. Pharmacologic activation of Nrf2 confers protective effects, confirming this pathway as a potentially novel druggable target for the prevention of acute and chronic renal sequelae of Li therapy.
Soma Jobbagy, Dario A. Vitturi, Sonia R. Salvatore, Maria F. Pires, Pascal Rowart, David R. Emlet, Mark Ross, Scott Hahn, Claudette St. Croix, Stacy G. Wendell, Arohan R. Subramanya, Adam C. Straub, Roderick J. Tan, Francisco J. Schopfer
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating genetic muscle disease resulting in progressive muscle degeneration and wasting. Glucocorticoids, specifically prednisone/prednisolone and deflazacort, are commonly used by DMD patients. Emerging DMD therapeutics include those targeting the muscle wasting factor, myostatin (Mstn). The aim of this study was to investigate how chronic glucocorticoid treatment impacts the efficacy of Mstn inhibition in the D2.mdx mouse model of DMD. We report that chronic treatment of dystrophic mice with prednisolone (Pred) causes significant muscle wasting, entailing both activation of the ubiquitin-proteasome degradation pathway and inhibition of muscle protein synthesis. Combining Pred with Mstn inhibition, using a modified Mstn propeptide (dnMstn), completely abrogates the muscle hypertrophic effects of Mstn inhibition independent of Mstn expression or SMAD3 activation. Transcriptomic analysis identified that combining Pred with dnMstn treatment affects gene expression profiles associated with inflammation, metabolism, and fibrosis. Additionally, we demonstrate that Pred-induced muscle atrophy is not prevented by Mstn ablation. Therefore, glucocorticoids interfere with potential muscle mass benefits associated with targeting Mstn, and the ramifications of glucocorticoid use should be a consideration during clinical trial design for DMD therapeutics. These results have significant implications for past and future Mstn inhibition trials in DMD.
David W. Hammers, Cora C. Hart, Andreas Patsalos, Michael K. Matheny, Lillian A. Wright, Laszlo Nagy, H. Lee Sweeney
Effective treatments and animal models for the most prevalent neurodegenerative form of blindness in the elderly, called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), are lacking. Genome-wide association studies have identified lipid metabolism and inflammation as AMD-associated pathogenic pathways. Given liver x receptors, encoded by NR1H3 and NR1H2, are master regulators of these pathways, herein we investigated the role of LXR in human and mouse eyes as a function of age and disease, and tested the therapeutic potential of targeting LXR. We identified immunopositive LXR fragments in human extracellular early dry AMD lesions and a decrease in LXR expression within the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) as a function of age. Aged mice, lacking LXR presented with isoform dependent ocular pathologies. Specifically, loss of the Nr1h3 isoform results in pathobiologies aligned with AMD, supported by compromised visual function, accumulation of native and oxidized lipids in the outer retina, and upregulation of ocular inflammatory cytokines, while absence of Nr1h2 is associated with ocular lipoidal degeneration. Therapeutically, LXR activation, ameliorated lipid accumulation and oxidant-induced injury in RPE cells in vitro, and decreased ocular inflammatory markers and lipid deposition in a mouse model, in vivo, providing translational support for pursuing LXR-active pharmaceuticals as potential therapies for dry AMD.
Mayur Choudhary, Ebraheim N. Ismail, Pei-Li Yao, Faryan Tayyari, Roxana A. Radu, Steven Nusinowitz, Michael E. Boulton, Rajendra S. Apte, Jeffrey W. Ruberti, James T. Handa, Peter Tontonoz, Goldis Malek
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